Lab at Stanford Studies Effects of Virtual Reality
In his little office at Stanford University, Prof. Jeremy Bailenson is able to make crazy things happen.
“You can grow a third arm, you can travel the world, you can go to the bottom of the ocean,” Professor Bailenson said. “And the possibility to do things we could imagine previously, is really neat.”
The name is the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. It’s now a place for Silicon Valley honchos to check out. Once you’re wearing the goggles, you’re taken to a world you thought you would never be in.
Stanford Lab Studies the Effects of Virtual Reality on Humans
Growing a third arm or getting transported into a virtual world are just two of the many things virtual reality can make happen. It also turns a simple experience into a very immersive one.
But at what cost?
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Bailenson shared, “Virtual reality is not a media experience. When it’s done well, it’s an actual experience. In general, our findings show that VR causes more behavior change, causes more engagement, causes more influence than other types of traditional media.
“Becoming someone else in virtual reality and experiencing this trauma first hand in general causes a reduction in prejudice compared to the typical way that we try to address this.”
Looking into the effects of virtual reality, Bailenson sees risks.
He said, “Virtual reality is consuming. You put it on, you’re there. It’s really intense and you actually feel like you are there.”
“It’s a powerful tool. That power of the experience doesn’t come for free,” Bailenson said of the possible unwanted effects of virtual reality. “In the wrong hands, technology can be good, it can be bad. Uranium can heat homes and it can destroy nations. And virtual reality is a medium—it’s up to us to use it for good.”
Bailenson has studied virtual reality since 1999, and for him, it’s amazing to see the technology finally hitting the masses. He agrees that it’s a “pretty special time” to test the power of virtual reality, to try to know what exactly it can do.
But great things come at a price. Professor Bailenson is aware and wants people to know that this product of technology, however great and helpful, has effects and should not be used lightly.